Bonds of Zionism and friendship

They first met in America - now childhood friends reunite in Israel decades later to renew bonds of friendship and Zionism.

Rachel Levmore ,

Shevet Moriah reunion
Shevet Moriah reunion
Rachel Levmore

The ebullient calls echoed as dozens of 65-year-olds recognized childhood friends. The noisy, excited bunch behaving like teenagers were the members of Shevet Moriah of Bnei Akiva of North America. For the fourth time in fifteen years, they were reunited in Israel with “chaverim” (friends), some of whom they had not seen in decades.

The vast majority of Shevet Moriah that gathered had come on aliyah (immigrated to Israel), influencing and continuing to affect Israeli society. Shevet members also arrived from abroad who continue to send their children to Israel from within the same Zionist bond. An amazing collection of Zionists in soul and in deed.

These friends hailed from all over North America - from Canada to California. Bnei Akiva was their spiritual and fun home wherever they lived. Gathered from the breadth of the continent, most met in Camp Moshava at the age of sixteen for an intensive month of study accompanied by unforgettable experiences. The year following high school, 1971, eighty spent a year in kibbutzim Yavneh, Saad or Ein HaNatziv, with others studying in yeshivot or Michlala. Inspiring kibbutnikim and teachers provided a formative experience for these young people. For some, the principle of living in Israel was so ingrained that they did not return home as planned, immediately establishing their home in Israel.

Most members of Shevet Moriah immigrated to Israel in the second half of the 1970s, with young families and academic degrees. Setting out to contribute to Israeli society they have become an integral part of the human landscape in Israel. Members of the shevet's "garin" joined Kibbutz Ma'aleh Hagilboa when others dispersed throughout the country - within the religious kibbutz movement, in cities and towns. For decades, they have strengthened Israel as community leaders, teachers and educators, psychologists, social workers, agronomists, rabbis, rabbinical court advocates, kashrut supervisors, academics, translators, administrators, nurses, doctors, librarians, accountants, plumbers, Jewish Agency employees, caterers, gardeners, dairy farmers, book authors - and even a city council member and a member of the Commission to Appoint Dayanim. Sorrowfully, the sons of two members fell as IDF soldiers in defense of Israel’s nation and homeland. The shevet members were taught the ideals of “Torah Va’avodah”, immigrated out of idealism and continue to contribute from within that same idealism throughout their lives.

Last Thursday, 8 Cheshvan, 8/11/18, One hundred and nineteen participants in the Shevet Moriah-North America Reunion gathered in the lobby of the beautiful Acre Guest House. Eighty actual shevet members and their spouses, excitedly hailed each other. It was a unique reunion of friends - one based on youthful camaraderie in the deepest sense of the word and reinforced by the values ​​of Zionism without a hint of cynicism. One may have discerned wrinkles surrounding bright eyes but no undercurrents of competition or comparisons based on status or ego. As we were in our teen years, we were all of equal standing.

Originally, five couples found their spouses within the shevet. In addition, the common base led to an intra-shevet couple from the U.S. who married only two weeks ago at the age of 65, with the weekend reunion providing a honeymoon!

During Thursday evening’s “Walk Down Memory Lane” (lovingly produced by a shevet member), as youthful photos of those present were screened, cries of “you look exactly the same!” were repeatedly heard. Oblivious to thinning grey hair, rounded stomachs and wrinkles, we saw the red-headed ideologue or the bright-eyed sensitive, principled brunette of our youth. For there they were in the flesh, not having changed a bit. All those present, having been inspired and guided by Bnei Akiva, personified a “life well spent” as observed by the wife of another shevet member.

Friday morning and Shabbat afternoon– as to be expected from this group always deepening its ties to Israel the land, the people and the state – were filled with exploration of Akko’s complex past within world history and its present within Israeli reality, expertly led by a fellow Bnei Akivanik.

Despite Shabbat morning’s excellent “sheur” dealing with the largely unspoken lack of clarity of thought while praying, when the oh-so-familiar voices from our youth led the prayers, the oft-spoken words were filled with the earnestness of youthful naiveté, impossibly coupled with the wisdom – and pain – garnered through years of life’s experiences.

Torah insights, open-hearted discussions of life’s dilemmas and much humor abounded -- both in the organized program and in inter-personal encounters throughout Shabbat. Albeit, as Shabbat ended, so too the reunion inevitably concluded. We departed from one another from within the same foundation of Zionism upon which we built our homes. Seamlessly merging the guiding principles of our lives, over a hundred friends at the age of sixty-five, dressed in blue sweatshirts decorated with the Bnei Akiva emblem raised their voices as one in the singing of "Hatikva", “Yad Achim” – the anthem of Bnei Akiva—and once again with the Shevet Moriah song resounding in our voices and hearts:

Moriah l’olmei Ad – Moriah, our song to you is eternal!

Dr. Rachel Levmore, Rabbinical Court Advocate, directs the Agunah and Get-Refusal Prevention Project of the International Young Israel Movement in Israel and the Jewish Agency. She and her husband, both nurtured in Bnei Akiva of North America, were amongst the founding families of Efrat in Gush Etzion.